French President Emmanuel Macron meets Spain’s Pedro Sanchez for a joint summit in Barcelona Thursday, with Paris seeking Spanish support for its uncompromising stance on a dispute over US protectionism. The summit takes place as France braces for a disruptive nationwide strike over a controversial pension reform drive, battening down the hatches for a hellish day of protest over plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. After talks at the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the two leaders will sign a friendship and cooperation treaty reinforcing bilateral ties on issues such as migration, defence and energy. With the treaty, Paris is seeking to cement stronger ties with neighbours other than Germany, notably those in southern Europe, at a moment when the Paris- Berlin alliance underpinning EU unity is showing signs of strain.
But Macron’s main aim is to seek a joint position with Madrid over Europe’s response to Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a massive investment plan to accelerate the US transition to green energy. Europe fears the plan, which will pour billions of dollars into climate-friendly technologies, will distort transatlantic trade to give American companies an unfair advantage. Macron, who bluntly denounced the subsidies as super aggressive on a visit to Washington in November, wants Brussels to quickly follow suit to avoid a flight of European companies relocating to take advantage of the US subsidies. But so far, EU nations have been divided on how to respond to the IRA, with Macron’s hard-ball approach gaining little traction in Spain.
Speaking to CNBC earlier this week, Sanchez admitted Europe had some homework to do notably rethinking its own subsidies policy to send a message to industry worldwide that Europe -- and of course, Spain -- is a good place to invest. The French leader is also hoping to enlist Olaf Scholz to his position, although the German chancellor has so far appeared more inclined towards dialogue than dispute with Washington. Scholz is expected in Paris on Sunday to mark 60 years since the signing of a Franco-German post-war friendship treaty. The Macron-Sanchez summit comes just three months after Paris, Madrid and Lisbon agreed to build a massive underwater hydrogen pipeline connecting Barcelona and Marseille that will be key for the EU’s energy independence.
Credit: Independent News Pakistan-INP